Bill Murray, Jan Vogler & Friends

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Last night’s show was…??

I’m having trouble coming up with one word to sum it up.  I’m conflicted about it.  On one hand, the musicians were fabulous and delivered a performance worthy of their world renown.  On the other, some artistic choices were questionable, tone-deaf at the bare minimum.

Here’s the setup:

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The stage setup was minimal and the lighting was sparse.  The colors changed slowly between songs but not during the segments.

From left to right, Bill Murray, Mira Wang on violin, Vanessa Perez at the piano and Jan Vogler with the cello.

The show was about two hours, including the multiple encores.  In the beginning, the narration was quite separate from the music.  Bill did a reading, the musicians followed him with a selection.  The theme, in a broad sense, was American classics.

Bill’s first few readings were Ernest Hemingway, Walt Whitman and James Fenimore Cooper.  The music following was Bach, Schubert and Ravel.

As the evening progressed, the narration merged with the music and by the end, I’d say we even got a few ‘songs’.   The show ended with a West Side Story medley of Somewhere, I Feel Pretty and America.   The first encore was El Paso, a Marty Robbins song familiar to me through the Grateful Dead.  The second encore was Angel of Montgomery, unlike no version of the song I’ve ever heard.

Now for the complaints, one selection in particular, a reading from the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.  The controversy over this one is a well known one, stemming from the prolific use of the n-word.  In today’s atmosphere, I have a problem with a room full of white people sitting, literally, at the top of the hill, listening to it.

With all of the conversations about race going on these days, I don’t think this selection added to it.  I’m sure the rationale for including it is a convenient soundbite about the importance of having such discussions and this is just another example being brought to the table.  Blah Blah Blah.  If that was the case, I missed the part where meaningful discussion was had.  To me, it was an old white guy using inappropriate language.   There wasn’t any context for including it.  It was just presented.  Given the plain presentation, it’s left to the listener to come to their own conclusion.  My conclusion:  meh.  If I was the producer, it would have been cut.

Of all the works selected, having one poor choice isn’t huge.  Still though, it seems like an obvious candidate for replacement.  Interestingly, the Huck Finn selection is one track not available to stream on Amazon.  All the other tracks are available but the Huck Finn track is listed as ‘album only’.  I’m curious about that.

The other ‘artistic’ choices fall under the umbrella of sexism.  I think the ladies, exceptionally talented and passionate artists, were relegated to the role of props.  Bill made his entrance at the top of the show flanked by them, holding hands.  It just felt off.  I doubt these women made entrances like this at other performances and I doubt it was their idea.   It colored the entire show.  These talented women were not treated as equals.  And we all know who got the biggest paycheck on that stage.  It was certainly not the women.

At another point in the show, during a cello-piano duet, Bill and Mira, the violinist, did a bit of tango.  They did a little toe-point step in hold and then opened into a little spin from Mira.  Lather. Rinse. Repeat.  It stuck out being the only choreography of the night.  Beyond that though, Mira was ‘summoned’ to dance and throughout most of it, her back was to the crowd.  Again, it just felt off.  It wasn’t natural and it was a bit out of place.

Given the time we live in, I think it’s appropriate to call out sexism and racism.  These are small things to be sure, coming from an old white guy though, it doesn’t sit right with me.  Was the show awful and terrible? no.  Was it tone deaf?  Yes.  That’s the most generous way to put it.  The intention was not to be offensive.  It just fell a bit short of amazing and genius and all the other praised heaped on.

It makes me think, Bill surrounds himself with Yes Men and people are so smitten just being around him, they don’t call him on it.   To read reviews, specifically of the Huck Finn track, calling it genius and a breath of fresh air seems like a cult of personality to me.   I don’t agree with those assessments.

Oh well, can’t win ’em all.  Most of it was good.  I just can’t give it rave reviews like everyone else but I’m not writing letters demanding my money back either.  It was a fun experience.  Frankly, the sweater is bigger than the show for me.  The show is just sort of an aside.  A cap to the whole experience that started when I read a ridiculous call for a Bill Murray art show.  Obviously there’s a cult of personality involved here.  Who am I kidding?  That was a given from day one.

The most unexpected part of the evening:  the number of hecklers.  Fools in the very back row (naturally) shouting things like ‘THIS SUCKS’ at the quiet moments.  They were shut down quickly and loudly by people around them.  I think it was two gentlemen in particular, maybe it was actually 3 though.  They reminded me of the people who yell ‘FREEBIRD’ at concerts.  LOL.  Poor guys, apparently they thought they were coming to see a comedian do stand up?  The first 20-30 minutes were rough for them.  Bach and Schubert are certainly not Freebird.

The best part of the evening:  Talking to people about my sweater :)  People were interested and amazed, so that was fun.  After all the work that went into it, two sentences doesn’t do it justice but you’ve heard about it all already, so I’ll spare you the repetition.

It’s on to new knitting now.  I’ve got a little bit of time for Christmas knitting and I’ve been jonesing for hat binge.  I haven’t knit a hat since August and that was only my second of the year.  I’m ready!  Bring on the hat binge! It’s gonna be good!!


 

Bill Murray: The Plan

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I’ve talked about a Bill Murray sweater a lot.  The time has come to put my money where my mouth is.  I think, maybe, the hard part is done…the Bill Murray part.

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Someone recently suggested that I had a lovely poster of Bill Murray.  So just to be clear, this is a portrait of Bill Murray THAT I KNIT.   This is not a poster!  If you want to read Bill’s origin story, you can find it here.   Then there was the time I decided Bill needed to become a sweater, here, in 2015.

I’ve been thinking about it a long time.  I’ve explored a few ideas but ultimately, I’m keeping the original idea I had back in 2015.

The Bill Murray sweater is actually going to be a Bill Murray vest.

The new portions of the project will be worked in a variety of grey, white and off-white stripes.  I’ll never match the original yarn, so I’m not even going to try.

Construction is going to be started by picking up stitches around the edge of the piece, leaving armholes at the top corners and working outward.

I don’t want a shawl collar.

I do want to do my shaping via short rows.

Those were the basics I started from.  From there, I got stitches on the needles.

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Now that I’ve got the first couple inches, I’m starting to make shaping decisions.  I’m adding short rows to the bottom edge so allow some flare.  I’m not going to go all the way to ‘swing coat’ but I’ve got hips that need to be accounted for.

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Apparently I’m a sucker for weaving in ends.

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I’m having fun making stripes.  Not sure I’m really making a garment just yet though.  The top has definitely retained it’s squareness.

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I don’t really have a plan for the shoulders.  I’m not sure how to smooth the transition from the back to the front.  I’m hoping the solution presents itself as I go.

I’ve got 23 days and 21 hours to figure it out.

Ready. Set. Go.


 

The Bill Murray Sweater.

Jobs kill creativity!  Add in a knitting slog and a touch of jealous one-upmanship and you get my weekend.  Never fear though, from that horrible, flaming mess a phoenix will rise!  A phoenix that appears in the shape of BILL MURRAY!

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With Rhinebeck and the big sweater deadline approaching, I limited myself to one project over the long weekend.  It was rather dreadful, I went to bed early instead of knitting because I couldn’t bear to work on it one row more.  I couldn’t possibly start another project because I didn’t have time.  There was no way around it.  Deadline knitting means time management isn’t just a thing I say with finger quotes and a strange look on my face.  Having a job is a serious time suck and it was seriously harshing my creative mellow this weekend.  and then this happened…

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Serioiusleeee?  I was beat to the punch by a Taylor Swift fan.  That’s a disappointment.  I had high hopes for a Bill Murray sweater.  and now I’ve been relegated to be that knitter who wanted to be like the Taylor Swift knitter.  damn.  #ShakeItOff

Needless to say, my weekend was not the best.  Enter Tuesday morning, when I’m relieved of my work responsibilities!  A chorus of angels appeared!  Suddenly, my beloved free time was back!!!  I have amazing luck, every time I’m let go from a job, it makes me the happiest person in the zip code.  I hope this kind of luck never runs out.  I think of it as the worst things happening to me in the best way possible.

So, there I am feeling pretty good, certainly better!  And then, a friend said the magic words…Art Project!  Yes!  That is just what I need to celebrate my free time…an art project!  It’s time for Bill Murray to come out of the frame and become a garment!  I slept on it, and I think I’ve made some decisions.

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There’s me and Bill.  As you can see, he’s huge.  That definitely limits what I can do with it.  And it’s superwash.  Not a great choice for steeking, meaning I can’t really cut away any excess fabric.  And it’s such a light color.  I don’t really want a gigantic off-white sweater?!?  I toyed with the idea of a skirt, but I’d definitely need to line it…not loving that idea.  and then it came to me!  Don’t overthink it, just go simple.  A vest (doesn’t get easier than no sleeves!), similar in shape to the cassette tape vest.

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I think less of a shawl collar.  That’s a minor detail at this point.  My basic plan is to pick up stitches along the top & sides, leaving armholes and just work a back & forth.  I’ll use the greys in the portrait, so it won’t be a big off-white sweater, at least not in the front!  I’m thinking maybe a textured stitch, striped seed stitch maybe?  Maybe some short row shaping to keep the collar from being too shawl like?  Who knows but it’s in progress…that’s the main thing!  and what’s the worst that happens?  It’s so horrible that Bill Murray himself calls me, begging for it’s destruction?  That’ll be the day :)

Secret Knitting

I’ve got some secret knitting happening.  I can’t show you.  You’ll just have to take my word for it.  So, while we kill time waiting for the secret to reveal itself, let’s take another walk down memory lane!

Last year at this time, I saw a call for artist’s submissions to a Bill Murray art show.  The guidelines were pretty specific.  They talked about the type of wall mounts and lights that would be used.  They talked about not infringing on copyrights.  They talked about pedestals for sculptures.  They talked about Steve Zissou (mostly to say, don’t do that it’s too obvious.)  Mostly, the whole thing seemed pretty obvious, it was geared towards fine art.  It made no mention of fiber arts.   Naturally, this made me want to knit Bill Murray.

So, I did!  Why the heck not?

I knew I wanted young Murray, so I found a photo (the Stripes promo photo), converted it to black and white, and laid a grid over top to create my pattern.  I picked up a cheap-o knitting machine and knit myself a canvas.

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From there, I duplicate stitched the chart I made.

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It took a long time.

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I don’t ever want to do this much duplicate stitch again!

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Then I got to the Abe Lincoln Phase…

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I was nervous that my Bill Murray wouldn’t really look like Bill Murray!

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Facial features saved the day!

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And now I can say, I’ve had my work shown in a gallery.

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Shameless Self-Promotion:  Bill could be yours right now! Just click here! 

Tomorrow, we’ll be back to our regularly scheduled knitting content!  There are WIPS for Wednesday!